Weekend News Briefs from CVBT

July 14, 2017 9:01pm
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•  A reason to stay indoors this weekend

•  A management move for the State Water Project

•  And more….

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Robbin Thorp and his missing bee.
(See final story in Briefs)(Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Valley is choking on wildfires’ smoke

Smoke from the “Garza” wildfire and other wildfires is affecting all of the San Joaquin Valley, says the Valley Air Pollution Control District.

Smoke from the Whittier (Santa Barbara County), Alamo (San Luis Obispo County), and Garza (Kings County) fires is affecting air quality in all locations throughout the San Joaquin Valley, from San Joaquin County to the Valley portion of Kern County. Smoke from the Schaeffer Fire located in Tulare County is affecting air quality in the foothill and mountain areas of Tulare and Kern County, especially the communities of Kennedy Meadows and Johnsondale.

A strong high pressure system parked over the Valley is causing smoke emissions to remain trapped within the air basin and spikes in particulate matter levels and ozone levels are possible. The health caution will remain in place and smoke impacts will continue until the fires are extinguished.

Smoke from fires produces particulate matter (PM2.5), which can cause serious health problems including lung disease, asthma attacks and increased risk of heart attacks and stroke. People with existing respiratory conditions, young children and elderly people are especially susceptible to health effects from these pollutants. Air District officials urge residents to follow their doctors’ orders when exposed to PM 2.5 and stay indoors if at all possible.


A top manager is named for the State Water Project

Joel Ledesma, 49, of Sacramento, has been appointed deputy director of the State Water Project at the California Department of Water Resources.

Mr. Ledesma has served in several positions at DWR since 1991, including assistant division chief of operations and maintenance, chief of plant asset management, chief of the delta field division, principle hydroelectric power utility engineer, supervising control engineer, senior control engineer and electrical engineer.

This position does not require Senate confirmation and the compensation is $178,992. Mr. Ledesma is a Democrat.


Identity thief sentenced to almost 5 years

Ashley Nicole Leyba, 27, who is also known as Ashley Nicole Schlichting, of Sacramento, has been sent to prison for four years and nine months for bank fraud, aggravated identity theft, and possession of stolen mail, says U.S. Attorney Phillip Talbert.

Acording to court documents, between September 2016 and February 2017, Ms. Leyba, working with associates in the Sacramento metropolitan area, carried out an identity theft scheme in order to defraud banks and credit unions. She obtained stolen mail and opened credit card accounts and lines of credit using the financial and identification information found in the stolen mail and then used the credit cards to buy goods at stores in Sacramento and Placer counties.


Telephone workers and AT&T splice together a labor deal

Pacific Bell and Nevada Bell have reached a new tentative agreement with the Communications Workers of America in West Region “wireline” contract negotiations covering over 17,000 employees in California and Nevada, says AT&T, the company that owns the two firms.

CWA-represented employees narrowly failed to ratify a prior agreement that had been reached in June.

The new agreement was reached after extensive discussions between management, the union and a federal mediator.

Details of the tentative agreement have not been made public.


Gold country drivers soon to go round and round

A round-about, a traffic control design so popular in Europe and parts of Florida, is coming to the Valley foothill town of Plymouth.

Work started Friday to convert the intersection of Highway 49 and Shenandoah Road and Main Street into a round-about.

The roundabout is expected to have a total project cost of $6 million and be finished in the spring of 2018. George Reed Construction of Modesto is performing the work.

Why change an intersection that’s been around since the Gold Rush?

“Rather than all four vehicles being forced to come to a complete stop, idling their engines and contributing to noise and air pollution, motorists will glide through the roundabout with minimal delay,” says Caltrans.


Chico DMV field office closing for renovations

The Chico Department of Motor Vehicles field office at 107 Parmac Road is closing for renovations at 5 p.m. on Thursday, July 20.

The upgrades include installing new flooring and repairs to the roof.

It is scheduled to reopen to the public at 8 a.m. on Monday, August 14.

The DMV reminds customers that online services may save them a trip to any field office. By visiting www.dmv.ca.gov, they can renew their vehicle registration and driver license, complete a change of address, request a driver record, and schedule an appointment.


Stockton man sentenced for tax refund fraud

Christopher Grady, 35, of Stockton, has been sentenced to more than three years of time already served in prison for conspiring to submit false claims to the Internal Revenue Service and aggravated identity theft, says U.S. Attorney Phillip Talbert.

According to court documents, Mr. Grady and others submitted tax returns to the IRS that falsely claimed that the persons named on the returns were entitled to tax refunds. He got the names, Social Security numbers, and other personal identifying information of various individuals and used that information, often without the knowledge of those people, to submit the tax returns in their names.

Altogether, they submitted at least 1,367 false tax returns, requesting approximately $962,853 in tax refunds. The IRS paid more than $252,000 in fraudulent tax refunds as a result of the scheme.

Tosh Babu, of Stockton, pleaded guilty on May 25, 2017, to conspiracy to submit false claims. He is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Nunley on August 24, 2017.

Jacob Cook, of Stockton, pleaded guilty on May 4,. He is scheduled to be sentenced on July 27.

Jeffrey Grady, of Stockton, is next scheduled for a status hearing on August 17. The charges against Jeffrey Grady are allegations only, and he is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.


Scientists, citizens trying to find Franklin's bumble bee

Look out, Franklin's bumble bee, they're coming for you! But where are you?

Is the insect just good at eluding scientists or has it cone extinct?

A “search party” of scientists and citizen scientists is forming to look for Franklin's bumble bee and other rare bumble bees from Monday, July 17 through Friday, July 21 in Ashland, Oregon.

Noted bumble bee expert Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, will be there to identify the bees. In addition, he will present a brief introductory training session, showing examples of bumble bees that inhabit the area, “and especially the rare ones we hope to find.”

The event involves searching for Bombus franklini and the endangered Western bumble bee, Bombus occidentalis, in the Mt. Ashland and Siskiyou-Cascade National Monument area. The survey is open to all interested volunteers.

Both bumble bees are on the Red List of Threatened Species of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.

“The objective is to get more eyes out looking for the rare bumble bees,” says Mr. Thorp, co-author of Bumble Bees of North America, An Identification Guide.

Mr. Thorp, who has been monitoring Franklin's bumble bee since 1998, hasn't seen the bee since Aug. 9, 2006, when he spotted it in a meadow near Mt. Ashland.

The UC Davis scientist says the distinctively marked bumble bee has the most restricted range of any bumble bee in the world. Its habitat is -- or was -- a small area of southern Oregon and northern California (Siskiyou and Trinity counties).

Franklin's bumble bee frequents California poppies, lupines, vetch, wild roses, blackberries, clover, sweet peas, horsemint and mountain penny royal during its flight season, from mid-May through September, Thorp points out. It collects pollen primarily from lupines and poppies and gathers nectar mainly from mints.

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